Bees are Capitalist

Margaret Cavendish’s poem “Similizing the Brain to a Garden” is a beautiful piece. As the title says, the poem spends its time comparing the human brain to a garden. There are a lot of metaphors and similes, as expected from something like this. For the first half of the poem, it compares thoughts to different kinds of flowers: “There various thoughts as several flowers grow: / Some milk-white innocence, as lilies, show, / Fancies, as painted tulips’ colors fixt” (lines 7-9). In literature, lilies are often seen to symbolize innocence, and tulips symbolize deep love. Cavendish reinforces both of these meanings here. If the brain is a beautiful garden, thoughts are the flowers growing in the soil.

A turn I didn’t expect the poem to take was an anti-industry one. Cavendish continues her extended metaphor by bringing insects into the equation; specifically, bees.

Industrious pains, as bees, suck out the sweet,
Wax of invention gather with their feet.
Then on the wings of fame fly to their hive,
Which from the wint’r of death keeps them alive.

lines 21-24

She flat-out states that bees are “industrious pains,” taking the hard work of the flowers and using it for their own benefit. This is just how the rich take advantage of the work their employees do, often claiming it as their own, which “keeps them alive through the winter” so to speak.

A poem from 1653 still rings true today. The human experience truly does not change.

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